Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or so, you have probably heard the news about the “big fight” finally getting signed.
I don’t mean an MMA fight – as much as we love the sport, we just can’t match the scale here. I mean the one that was five years (or more) in the making. It’s the one that looks to break all pay-per-view records.
It’s the one which offers its fighters a payday in the hundreds of millions of dollars — while entire UFC events, like UFC 182 featuring Jon Jones, barely offer $1 million total.
I mean, of course, Floyd Mayweather Jr’s announcement that he had finally accepted a bout with Manny Pacquiao, to take place May 2 — with, as usual his terms: his traditional Cinco de Mayo weekend, in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas.
It’s actually shaping up to be an incredible month for the fight sports. Jon Jones defends his UFC light heavyweight championship against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 187 on May 23. At the same event, Chris Weidman defends his middleweight championship against Vitor Belfort, and Khabib Nurmagomedov will face Donald Cerrone in a lightweight bout. The UFC will visit Pacquiao’s native Philippines for the first time as well. GLORY will have a show May 8 in California, too.
Still, the big Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight will unquestionably be the biggest event in fight sports – not only that month, but in the year… and possibly, in the years to come.
Some MMA fans enjoy boasting about MMA being the more popular of the two sports. Sometimes, they’re right – with the UFC enjoying a presence on the FOX network and its cable partners. Even with ratings on an overall decline (see our friends at MMA Payout for specifics), recent UFC on FOX broadcasts still manage an average of two to three million viewers, which boxing events struggle to match.
But in another recent development, that may be changing as well.
Boxing promoter Al Haymon has taken a page out of ZUFFA’s book, by purchasing air time on several television networks, for his new “Premier Boxing Champions” series.
Reports first emerged of a deal with NBC, to bring the “sweet science” back to prime time network television. Per a NY Times report, there will be 20 events in total, to be aired on both NBC and their partner NBC Sports Network – and will include talent like Adrian Broner and Robert Guerrero, beginning March 7.
Then came news of a deal between Haymon and SPIKE TV. Per a recent report from Dan Rafael of ESPN, Haymon, “with tens of millions of dollars (some estimate he has as much as a $100 million war chest) from investors backing him, is buying the airtime to present bouts under the banner of his “Premier Boxing Champions” series, same as the NBC shows…” These shows will begin March 13, with Josesito Lopez vs. Andre Berto.
Finally, Haymon is bringing his shows to CBS, as reported by RING Magazine. These will begin April 4. Boxing continues its presence on premium networks like Showtime, with Haymon charge Julio Cesar Chavez Jr headlining next month.
Will Haymon’s gamble pay off? Will he help create a new boxing audience, to emerge in the coming months? Are we about to witness Mayweather vs. Pacquiao 1 of an epic series?
There may be more questions than answers now, but it’s a new day for the Marquis of Queensbury. 2015 may be the year boxing strikes back.